Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Year In Music 2008


The best CDs I bought or borrowed and listened to this year. Unlike the lists from critics it is not restricted to albums issued in 2008.

B. B. King's One Kind Favor, probably the last CD I bought in 2008 and one of the best.

Neo-soul was one my trends this years. From Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Betty Lavette and Alice Russell to Ray Charles tributes from David Sanborn and John Scofield and Do the Boomerang, Don Byron's tribute to Junior Walker.

There's not a revival of Southern rock, nowadays it's called alt country rock, red dirt or who knows what. But there's some fine music being made that might remind you of the Allman Brothers. Drive-by Truckers Darker Than Creation's Bright further cements that band's critical reputation. Cross Canadian Ragweed isn't the same darling of the critics but they do some great music with a social consciousness.

In jazz, Bobby Watson's From the Heart is a fine piece of post-bop with a nice romantic touch. Jerry Hahn has an album of Christian hymns. Terrence Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will Carla Bley is known for her big band work, but I really liked her small group, The Lost Chords Find Paulo Fresu. Casandra Wilson did her first album of song book standards in twenty years ahead jazz album in years, Loverly, and it was really nice. Melody Gardot is a newcomer with a dramatic personal story Her Worrisome Heart is a standout. Allmusic says she "straddles the line between lounge jazz, folk, and cowgirl songs." Thanks to a friend at work, I listed to lots of Chase and Maynard Ferguson.

In the department of how did I everlook them, I enjoyed John Mellencamp's 2004 two-CD greatest gits collection Words and Music and his 2007 Freedom Road. Don't know why I never listened much to Nina Simone, but I finally got around to her High Priestess of Soul.

Live Music

Seeing Merle Haggard at the Cotillion was really nice. I took a teenager to see Weird Al at the Cotillion. Bobby Watson's concert with student big bands and combos at Friends University was great. Jimmy LaFave at the Bartlett Arboretum was enjoyable music and finally got me to that regional treasure.

I'm glad I saw Commander Cody at the Sedgwick County Zoo summer series, but wish he had a bigger combo. Soulstice, Friends small group combo, had a CD release party at the Broadview. I heard Steve Hatfield and other jazzers at the B-Side--and bought his excellent CD Just Be Wally-- and Craig Owens and Bodo Ensemble at the Blank Page. The Wichita Historical Museum had a great Final Friday event to conclude their electric guitar exhibit. Cliff Major, Rachel Coba, and Jerry Hahn performed. Dropped by Artichoke's annual Fish Fry to benefit the Kansas Acoustic Arts Association and spent a day at the Walnut Valley Festival.

I made several Wichita Blues Society events, including the Guitar Showdown. And close to the end of the year attended a Riverside Perk concert by friends Aaron Fowler and Laura Dungan celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Music Technology

Even as I've been continuing to convert my massive LP and cassette collection to CDs, I've entered the digital era, with a Iphone and a Sansa Clip.

The Clip comes with a 30-day trial of Rhapsody, a nusic subscription. You pay a monthly fee and get access to their vast music, but you have to pay every month. It will be fun trying it, could be a wonderful way to try out new music. I downloaded Bela Fleck's Christmas CD and some of Alice Russell's CD.

So I wondering if I should put (as much as possible) of my music collection on one of those massive external hard drives. How much sound quality do you lose with MP3s and if you can't tell the difference does that mean you need to upgrade your sound system.

Making use of playlists strikes me as one of the exciting things to do with digital tunes. How about Monk tunes, blues tunes and rock covers.

I like the Social Tunes on Facebook, but don't always keep it up to date and have than one-fourth of my collection entered

Another technology I'm going to try out in 2009 is Shazam the music recognition program for Iphones. My brother and his wife told me about this, but they didn't know the details. I thought it must be based on some sort of tagging, but it's not.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Friends Write Books

Several of my friends have books out in 2008 or coming shortly in 2009

Wichtia's Robert Beattie, having written a book that helped breakl the BTK case has a new one out in early January on another intriguing Kansas murder case. The Language of Evil is describes this way

Brilliant linguist, charming professor, and renowned writer Tom Murray had a way with words.

He used them to seduce.

And he used them to get away with murder.

Erudite Kansas City professor Tom Murray seduced, then married his starry-eyed student Carmin Ross. But when Carmin attempted to leave their violent marriage, Tom stabbed her in the throat thirteen times, but left behind no evidence.

Convinced he’d committed a perfect crime, Tom didn’t even solicit a lawyer. But he hadn’t counted on relentless small town deputy sheriff Doug Wood, who refused to be underestimated. What happened next would result in one of the most unforgettable, shocking, and unexpected trials in Kansas state history.
Joseph Schwartz has written a book blurbed by Michael Walzer, Cornell West, and Francis Fox Piven. Not bad. The Future of Democratic Equality: Rebuilding Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America Here's the publisher's description

Why has contemporary radical political theory remained virtually silent about the stunning rise in inequality in the United States over the past thirty years? Schwartz contends that since the 1980s, most radical theorists shifted their focus away from interrogating social inequality to criticizing the liberal and radical tradition for being inattentive to the role of difference and identity within social life. This critique brought more awareness of the relative autonomy of gender, racial, and sexual oppression. But, as Schwartz argues, it also led many theorists to forget that if difference is institutionalized on a terrain of radical economic inequality, unjust inequalities in social and political power will inevitably persist.

Schwartz cautions against a new radical theoretical orthodoxy: that "universal" norms such as equality and solidarity are inherently repressive and homogenizing, whereas particular norms and identities are truly emancipatory. Reducing inequality among Americans, as well as globally, will take a high level of social solidarity--a level far from today's fragmented politics. In focusing the left's attention on the need to reconstruct a governing model that speaks to the aspirations of the majority, Schwartz provocatively applies this vision to such real world political issues as welfare reform, race relations, childcare, and the democratic regulation of the global economy.

UMKC and Levy Institute economist Randall Wray co-authored the introduction to Hyman Minsky's Stabilizing and Unstable Economy.Minsky was a legendary economist who further developed some of John Maynard Keynes idea to explain an inherent tendency toward crisis and instability in capitalist economies. Never more relevant than today!

Max Skidmore, who teaches political science at UMKC, has Securing America's Future: A Bold Plan to Preserve and Expand Social Security

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Putting the Warren invocation in perspective

Gay rights groups, liberal organizations like People for the American Way, and the progressive blogosphere are upset that President-elect Barack Obama has picked mega-church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren to offer the invocation at next month's inaugural.

I can't say I was thrilled when I first heard the news. What was Obama thinking, I asked like many others. One gay rights leader described it as a "slap in the face." It is certainly being portrayed that way in the email blasts and list serves I'm seing.

One Kansas blogger, Moti Rieber who blogs at Fed Reb, has writen several intelleigent and angry posts on the subject. In one he wrote

Someone asked me whom I would have chosen instead. There are many progressive religious figures who have been largely excluded from the public discourse for years now, and who would broadcast a truly inclusive message at the start of the new administration, but just off the top of my head I came up with four
Moti names four fine progressive religious individuals, who I think would make fine invocators in in January. (But many doctrinaire religious progressive think Jim Wallis of Sojourners doesn't pass the grade on abortion or gay rights.)

But he left out the one that Obama has actually picked to be part of the Inaugural ceremonies. Yes, that right. There's a progressive religious figure already invited.

Obama has asked Joseph Lowery to give the benediction Lowery is an icon of the civil rights movement, long-time of the SCLC, tireless advocate of peace and social justice, and a supporter of gay rights.

The first step in putting the Warren invocation in perspective is to realize that it is not Warren but Warren + Lowery.

Understanding that is key to understanding what Obama may be thinking. And key to how the gay rights movements and friends of that movement should respond.

That's a subject for another day.

WSU YDS Featured in December Progressive

The December issue of The Progressive magazine features three photos of an October march organized by the Wichita State Young Democratic Socialists in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their campaign to get Chipolte!, a leading fast food chain, to give a fair shake to Florida tomato workers. (it's on page 20)

Pick up an issue at your local newstand. There's also a long article on the situation of farmworkers elsewhere in the magazine.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cadillac Records--quick review

I rarely go to see new movies the first day. Sometimes the first weekend, but not often one the opening night. Tonight I went to see "Cadillac Records," which is loosely based on the legendary Chess Records.

There are lots of excellent stuff in the movie, but lots misses the mark. It could have been a really great movie, but it falls short. The chronology is all mixed up, the narration by Willie Dixon/Cedric the Entertainer doesn't work, there's more melodrama and formula than art at times. One of Chess Records founders--Phil Chess--is erased. The conflict between Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf is fit into a political framework that I'm not sure is at all historically accurate.

The acting is often better than the script--by a big margin

Most of the music is done by the actors. Beyoncé is great as Etta James, Jeff Wright as Muddy Waters and Eamon Walker as Howlin' Wolf are great. Mos Def is not so convincing singing Chuck Berry.

The main thing is the music, we shouldn't forget. If the movie reconnects the younger generation of black and whites to the great legacy of African-American music, it will be a success. If you buy the soundtrack, there's a CD of the Chess originals you should pick up as well. If you can only buy one, get the originals. And if you're really into the music, read the Spinning Blues into Gold history and get the fine documentaries on Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

At my showing in Wichita, there was a good representation of African Americans--and some brought their youngsters. If you object to foul language, I wouldn't advise that. But if you like blues and early rock, I heartedly recommend the movie, despite its shortcomings.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Kansas Politics Gets Stranger

Hotline reports that Third District Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore won't be running for re-election.

Sources close to Rep. Dennis Moore (KS-03) say he will not run for re-election in '10. It's unclear if he will launch a SEN bid instead; Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is stepping down and is expected to run for GOV.

Via a spokeswoman, Moore said today: "I am honored to be serving the people of the Third District and have every intention of continuing my work in Congress on their behalf."

It could be that Moore will retire or run for Governor, or Hotline could have it wrong. Or it could be that he will run for Senate.

But, if the rumor is true--what a shakeup in Kansas politics.

Here's what could happen. Sam Brownback is stepping down from the Senate to run for Governor, facing Secretary of State Rod Thornburgh with Gov Kathleen Sebelius term-limited. Incumbet Representatives Tiahrt vs. Moran for the GOP Senate nomination, leaving the 1st District and 4th District open. Moore leaving the 3rd District open to ? First-term Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, having won by a narrow margin facing a rematch from Nancy Boyda, or another tough challenger.

Going down the ticket. Attorney General Steve Six running for his first state-wide campaign, having replaced the ethically challenged, Republican-turned-Democrat Paul Morrison. State Treasurer Dennis McKinney having been appointed to replace Jenkins also running his first state-wide campaign.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a moderate Republican, might be the only elected incumbent to run for the same office in 2010.